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The Golden Compass Review

1 January 2008

It’s not often in the life of a gamer that he comes across a title that not only impresses him but also captivates him completely. Golden Compass isn’t one of those titles. That’s not exactly surprising considering it is a movie to game adaptation. We all know those types of games rarely live up to any degree of mediocrity let alone the movie itself, and this one is no exception.

Golden Compass tries to follow the path of the featured film and novel, but fails completely and lands flat on its face. They’ve pieced together parts of the film through cut-scenes and game direction, but they’ve also managed to throw the pieces together with absolutely no care at all. Obviously story direction is a strong element to a game adaptation from a novel or a movie and you’d think that the developers would have known that going into it, but they didn’t.

The game is supposed to follow Lyra Belacqua on her journey to rescue some missing children, one of them being her friend Roger. Anybody who has seen the movie may agree that it’s a solid story and start to a trilogy, but the game developers didn’t exactly take into account that maybe the people playing the game had never seen the movie or read the book before. That’s one of the biggest issues for the game. You follow Lyra around and you’re completely lost most of the time as to why you’re even doing it.

The gameplay might actually be worse than the storyboard. It lacks almost all creativity and any decent mechanics. The game gives you a button guide throughout the game that will actually tell you what to do and when. It’s almost as though you’re 6 years old again and your mother is holding your hand to cross the street. When you need to perform an action jump, the triangle button will light up, letting you know it’s time to hit it. It takes away any challenge the game may have tried to even offer.

Outside of the poor mechanics, the game feels off as well. Sometimes you’ll push in the direction you want to attack, but your character on screen might face the completely opposite direction and attack the air with such conviction that you’d think they were doing something important. The entire combat system is based around this extremely flawed and monotonous concept; you'll pretty much just end up repeatedly tapping your square button or tapping square+x to disarm your foes. That's the extent of that. Needless to say, it’s astounding that the game’s developers hadn’t even noticed any of the dire issues this game has to offer. It’s almost as if they went through the testing stage with blind kids as the testers.

The game does offer various mini-games that are supposed to offer small minor challenges, but once again, that fails as well. A couple of examples involve a “Cat & Mouse” game where you must chase after another character and reach him before he gets to the target point. The only problem with this is you can rapidly tap X to count to 20 in 4 seconds, and then take the EXACT SAME jumping shortcut each time in order to cut him off, no matter where the target is. It’s almost ridiculously simple and the fact they included such useless time consumers into the game is insulting to gamers in general.

Another prime example of a difficult challenge is when you have to balance yourself. All you really have to do is hold the analog in the direction you want to move and keep it still. Your player will remain balanced and move forward completely taking away from the point of the entire process. It’s almost as though the developers were just getting their paycheck.

The one bright spot of the game lies with Lyra’s demon, Pan. Pan can take various forms and he is then able to help you out from them. He’ll turn into a sloth to help you swing from pole to pole or he’ll take the form as a hawk where he’ll grab your shoulders and help you glide to safety. This was pretty intuitive and that only spot in the game that had any resemblance to something special.

Finally, the game offers a lacking supply of unlockables if you've already seen the movie itself. They range from things such as featurettes, movie clips, and even photograms. If you haven't seen the movie, I guess this would be like an extended trailer - the problem is, this only helps demonstrate how terrible this experience is in comparison to the real thing.

In the department of graphics you’d be pleasantly surprised if you were looking for a PS2 game disguised on a BD disc as a PS3 title. The look of the game is just lacking and belongs in the last generation of consoles. There is absolutely nothing within the look of this title that makes you feel as though you’re playing the game on your next-gen console. There happens to be a lot of visual tearing on top of the already pressing problems the game has to offer. The sound effects throughout the experience are also depressingly bad.

The score is decent and pretty majestic, but obviously the soundtrack isn’t going to save the game. You’d be better off trying to find the OST and just being satisfied.

Golden Compass does everything wrong and nothing right. The game would have been perfectly fine if it were centered for the target age range of 4-6 years old, however, that’s not even close to the age range targeted. The one thing this game does give its users the privilege of doing is giving you the ability to turn it off. Outside of that, you might as well just enjoy the cover art at the game store and then move on.

-The Final Word-

If the PS3 had a recycling bin, this would offer the perfect fit. Avoid it regardless whether or not you are a fan of the movie.
  • Lyra's demon is the highlight of the action
  • Ridiculously simplistic gameplay
  • Flawed mechanics
  • Visual tearing is abundant
1.5
Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3
See PSU's reviews scores on Metacritic and Gamerankings

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